Authorities in Alaska have removed the derelict school bus made famous by Into the Wild, a book and film that inspired many people to leave the city and venture out into the untamed wilderness — including a few who never made it back alive.
A National Guard helicopter airlifted the wrecked 1940s-era bus out of Denali National Park on Thursday, amid concerns that it was causing too many inexperienced hikers to get lost in pursuit of it.
The famous wreck, known as Fairbanks Bus 142 or the “Magic Bus,” has been sitting on the Stampede Trail in Alaska for decades. However, it became a favourite pilgrimage site after the publication of Into the Wild, a 1996 non-fiction work by Jon Krakauer.
The book followed the life of Christopher McCandless, a city-dweller who left his friends, family and life behind to venture out into the Alaskan back country. The book describes how McCandless found the derelict bus in the wilderness and lived there for several months before he ultimately died of starvation.
Sean Penn directed a film adaptation of the story in 2007, which romanticized McCandless’ tale as a journey of self-discovery.
The book and film have inspired hundreds to follow in McCandless’ footsteps, though a few have met similarly tragic fates after getting lost along the way.
Alaska officials say they were seeing too many rescue calls and fatalities in connection with the bus, so they decided to move it.
“We encourage people to enjoy Alaska’s wild areas safely, and we understand the hold this bus has had on the popular imagination,” Alaska Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a statement.
“However, this is an abandoned and deteriorating vehicle that was requiring dangerous and costly rescue efforts. More importantly, it was costing some visitors their lives,” Feige said.
Two people have drowned while crossing rivers en route to the site in recent years. State authorities have also staged several rescues to pluck wayward hikers out of the wild, including an effort last February to save five stranded Italian tourists.
Author Jon Krakauer shared news of the bus’ departure on Instagram Thursday. Krakauer said he heard through McCandless’ sister that the bus was being moved, and included a link to “a remarkable video of the flying bus.”
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A few hours ago Carine McCandless shared with me that she’d just received a call from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources informing her the bus where her beloved brother Chris McCandless lived and died in the summer of 1992 was airlifted out of the Alaska bush this morning by a Chinook military helicopter, placed on a flatbed trailer, and trucked to an undisclosed location for “safe storage.”
Clay Walker, the major of Denali Borough, said it was a “big relief” to have the bus removed.
“For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” he told Reuters. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”
He says the bus had been in place for about 60 years. “It turned into a perilous attraction that needed to be addressed,” he said.
It’s unclear whether the Department of Natural Resources will repair and relocate the bus, or if officials will simply dispose of it. The department says it will keep the wreck in a “secure location” until a decision can be made.
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